Things That Matter
As we glibly swim along the arc of our lives, some obviously longer than others, we are able to discern and identify the important things to us, the things in life that resonate. Things that move our soul, that scratch the previously unreachable itch, that stimulate us on levels we did not previously know existed. This process can start very early.
For some, however, it can start late, a result of wisdom roosting in one's heart and soul long past when it should have. I think most of us start fairly early and never stop accumulating "things that matter". There is no limit to the number of things that matter to us. Some have many, some don't. The only requirement, for me, is resonance.
What would top my list? Quality friendship. I abhor superficiality, and have been blessed to know a handful of people, men and women, where there is a minimum amount of it in our friendship. I understand that every encounter can't be deep and introspective, but I pride myself in being able to draw some depth, some texture, and some intellectuality out of areas and subjects that some might find mundane. And my handful of friends shares that same belief and desire.
Music matters. I can't sing worth a lick, but I love listening to music. The variety of my music collection is rather startling, even to me. It crosses cultural and racial and gender boundaries (as should everything, in my opinion), and I think it reflects the many moods I experience. I can usually always find a song to fit.
Books have been lifeblood to me. A tangible, tactile escape hatch from life. Sometimes I need them more than others, but I have never failed to get a warm flow through my soul glancing at my book shelves, knowing 'there lays a safe place, a respite'.
Comedy has often provided the same sort of distraction for me. The concept of someone standing on stage in front of me whose goal is to make me laugh? I cannot find flaw with that, and have made concerted efforts over the years to provide that gift for other people, as well.
Women? Women are wonderful. I have known the seriously flawed ones; I have known the disconcertingly healthy ones. And I have known the middle of the road ones, the women who dip their toe periodically into the cesspool of both happiness, and depression. They have all had something to add to my life. I only hope I provided some reciprocation.
Sports have, second to books, provided the largest avenue of escape for me. I’ve been enmeshed, committed to, and absorbed by sports from a very early age. I would absolutely encourage, even push, any child I had to pursue the wondrously impactful world of sports. I know of no other venue in life that has the potential to teach, and entertain, so much, including education. Competition is SO important to instill in the young. I know that competitiveness can turn sour, negative, and destructive. It is up to the parent to monitor that, and steer the child back on the right track. Healthy competitiveness breeds winners, no matter the final score. Who does not want to win?
Movies and TV? You bet. One just has to be picky. The great stuff still manages to filter through the ridiculously low-browed culture we all wade through. Have to be diligent, however. There is much more crap than quality. "The Sopranos" offered so much more subtlety than appeared on the surface. Look past the mayhem and troglodytic behavior. There is a gold mine of insight into human psychology on that show. Over the years, I have found the sifting process through the flotsam and jetsam worth the effort.
One contemporary movie that moves me to this day was "Crash" (2004), which dealt head on with one of my favorite subjects, race relations. But there are many flicks from Hollywood that critics have wanted to paint with the same condescending brush, but upon viewing, instead resonate for years after their making.
Getting out of my own bag of tricks, clearly having and raising children is something that matters, maybe more than anything else.
Gazing around, one can see effective parents, and feckless parents. Not really different from any other aspect of human life. But the quality of their efforts aside, it is the fact they are making the effort that deserves respect and empathy.
Raising a child is probably the most difficult task an adult can undertake, and definitely the most important. And when the baby becomes a boy, who becomes a man, who becomes the son you always wanted, and who then becomes a source of immense pride, and even a not-so-hidden delicious flavor of accomplishment on your part, well, I have seen that glow on a parent’s face before. Nothing matches it. Of course, not MY parents, but I digress.
I think I would cry a lot during the process of raising a child; equal parts joy and concern, worry and pride, fear and resolution.
“All my cards are on the table
There’s no Ace left in the hole
Now I’m much too young
To feel this damn old”
--- Garth Brooks
Age presents no natural barriers when adding to the list of things that matter. Life is a journey along which we are encouraged to accumulate things. Be they mental or physical, tactile or abstract; they all contribute to the elaborately framed oil painting of ourselves that we want propped on the easel next to our casket, as the people that mattered to us take turns talking about how WE mattered to them.
© Copyright 2016 Bill Rayburn. All rights reserved.